I am so excited as Pitch Wars is just around the corner! I bet you guys are, too, and I'm assuming you all know what this event is. If you don't, let me know and I'm happy to explain!
I thought it might be a good idea to cover a few writing points that will help you get ahead of the pack when it comes to standing out to a mentor (well, at least for me!):
1) Know why your MC wants what they want. What is their motivation? This is one of the most crucial elements. It can't just be "because they want it" or "so they don't die" or "to save their sister", etc. It needs to be specific. Look at books such as "My Sister, My Keeper" by Jodi Picoult, where this child is conceived as a child donor - now there's a motivation for a book that's super personal for her to live her own life.
2) Conflict, conflict, conflict! Both plot and internal conflict are super important. Look at The Hunger Games as an example: Plot conflict: having to survive the games when all odds are against her. Internal conflict: the conflict of the morality of kill or be killed. Of course, there is so much more to this book, but these highlight some of the conflicts.
3) Character. A reader enters the book with no concept of who your character is. Your job is to show the facets of them and who they are. What makes them tick? What are their secrets? What do they fear/love? How did they become who they are? However, the key is to show this just enough for the reader to understand them, but not so much you have lumps of exposition everywhere.
4) Pacing. This is vital. Get your book moving. Your book can only move if your characters are moving forward, being active, doing things. This can be hard to balance. Maybe you think the character is doing something, but really sit down and evaluate this: if you took the scene or action out of the book, would it really affect the story line? If not, it has to go.
5) Dialogue. Please don't get caught up in fussy dialogue tags such as "he intoned", "he chortled", etc. They mean your dialogue isn't strong enough and your reader gets pulled out of the story.
6) Description. Characters all notice different things depending on who they are and what mood they're in. Make sure you make their observations authentic and not just general. General descriptions are lazy.
7) Be interesting. That might sound obvious, but there are a surprising amount of stories that are rote, general, flat and predictable. This doesn't mean they can't be amazing stories. It just means the author needs to work harder to put new elements into their work: whether it means adding more character, adding a plot twist or two, bulking up the depth of theme, etc.
I think that's enough for the moment! Lol. There are a million different things a writer can work on and the writing craft can be daunting at times. But just tackle it a step at a time. I think those things mentioned above will really help your manuscript come alive.
Now, if you've got any questions on these points (or you want to ask another craft question), please don't hesitate to let me know!!
Happy Pitch Wars!
Sunday, 17 July 2016
Pitch Wars Writing Tips
Fiona McLaren is a displaced Scot living on the sunny island of Cyprus. She's an author, scriptwriter, and editor. She works alongside Cornerstones Literary Consultancy U.S., and also takes on freelance editorial work. The most important things in her life are her boys, her family, and her partner...and lots and lots of books! She's represented by the wonderful literary agent Maura Kye-Casella at Don Congdon Associates.